I had received a summons from a family friend, telling me that I must travel to her as soon as possible, for matters of the utmost importance that could only be spoken in person. I knew her to not be the kind to speak in exaggeration, and so packed a bag and left as quickly as I could.
The train out to the village was as uneventful as one would expect, until it reached the penultimate stop. When the doors opened, I noticed only silence, snaking itself around me until I was wrapped in it and its accompanying sense of foreboding. The train stood, doors open, as though beckoning me out in hope, for some minutes, before begrudgingly closing them and lurching on again toward the final stop.
The railway from there is a long single track winding its way up the hill. We soon passed into fog, and the train started screaming, as though in fear. As it ached further and further up the hill, the sense of foreboding grew, until finally the train came to a halt, just long enough to spit me out into the chill, before escaping back down the hill to safety. As I made my way along the platform, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, three bright red dots, piercing through the mist.
Outside the station, I was met by the cousin, and we descended the hill toward her homestead. She did not mention the matter that had troubled so to call me here, but I was feeling somewhat drained from the journey and decided to let her raise it in her own time. We dined and discussed trivialities, before retiring to bed.
The following morning, we went through the town to the butcher for that evening’s meal. As we walked, I studied the buildings we passed with a kind of fascination. The terrace row she lived on lead into warehouses, before meeting a road headed by a grand building I assumed must be a church. It felt like it was not one village, but several, from disparate times and places, as though built, not by the hands of men, but by memories, superimposed upon one another.
As we reached the main street, the wrongness intensified. I could see the end of the street, or right in front of me - to attempt focussing on the middle hurt and stung my eyes. We made our purchases, before heading opposite to a coffee house.
As we sat down with the steaming invigorating brews, a couple entered. I merely noted their entry, and thought nothing of them, until they entered the coffee house a second time. I sniffed my drink to ensure it had not been altered, and studied them in closer detail to find some different feature or indication of play disguise, but, albeit in different clothing, they were most definitely the same pair. My host seemed unperturbed by this.
Eventually, I asked her the reason for requesting my presence.
“Oh, I thought it might be nice for you to get out of the city for a bit. To relax and unwind”
This response left me confused and wary. In her letter, she had seemed urgent and distraught, and she had never been the kind for such frivolous correspondence. I thanked her for her sentiment and care for my wellbeing, but resolved to discover her real motive in bringing me out here.
The main street felt more uncomfortable on the return journey, with the same strange sick feeling at trying to gauge its length. Upon turning the corner back to her house, I noticed a sign that I didn’t recall seeing on the way out, or the previous day. “To the spiritualist church”, daubed on the wall of a house in stark black and white. A little way on, in a gap in the terrace where houses should have been, was a wooden shack, with a small cross made from simple crossed timber affixed to the top. It stood alone in an otherwise empty plot, and a sign on the door read “Spiritualist Church”. As I stared at it, so out of place, I felt something rise up in me, a need to run, but an even stronger desire to go inside and offer myself in worship to… something.
That night, my dreams were filled with images of the church, the extreme wrongness of the road, and a chanting over and over of the words on the sign, “to the spiritualist church”, until it burned itself into my mind.
We went out again, and, as the day before, the peculiar hut stood waiting, its black door calling out to me, demanding I go inside, scolding me was we passed it. The village center was eerily quiet, and, as we turned onto that awful road, I noticed the paving shift and slide while staying the same, the cracks both moving and not moving, and I suppressed the urge to scream. I heard the chanting inside my head once more, and felt the terrible draw of the church. I knew I needed to leave immediately, back to safety, far away. I told my host I had suddenly remembered an important appointment, pleading that I must go at once.
“Oh, but I haven’t even shown you the hill. Everyone who comes here eventually goes up the hill.”
I hope this letter reaches you safely, and that you are not so foolish as to follow me.